Fee-for-Departure Groups Share Bargaining Knowledge and Successes

By Kevin Cuddihy, Contributing Writer

Master executive council (MEC) leaders, Negotiating Committee members, ALPA national officers, and staff joined together virtually for a Fee-for-Departure (FFD) Bargaining Roundtable on August 12 as part of the ongoing information-sharing effort among the Association’s FFD pilot groups.

ALPA’s FFD Committee, chaired by Capt. Brad Ladimer (ExpressJet), coordinates the efforts of FFD pilot groups, building on the Association’s resources and expertise and MECs working together to share knowledge, best practices, and successes.

“It’s very important to bring the FFD group together, especially during today’s climate,” Ladimer said. “The unity among the FFD group has been tremendous since this pandemic started and has only continued to strengthen.”

Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA’s president, kicked off the event, telling attendees, “If we work together and we collaborate, we’ll come out on the other side of this stronger than we ever were before. We’re resilient, there’s no question about it.” He encouraged continued collaboration during the roundtable, stating, “It doesn’t get any more important than right now to have this discussion. We’ve come up with some really creative ideas, and now we need to keep that bar high.”

“When I look back on 31 years as a pilot, there are obviously ups and downs,” said Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary. “We’re certainly in challenging times. But the resources that ALPA has are endless. These meetings to share information and collaborate are priceless. We have to have each other’s backs, rely on each other, and share our information.”

Pilot leaders, including national officers, committee members, and council chairs, along with staff from ALPA’s Representation, Economic & Financial Analysis, Government Affairs, Retirement & Insurance, and Communications Departments, discussed how to maximize effectiveness in a variety of specific bargaining scenarios.

Capt. Edward Norberg (Endeavor Air), a member of his pilot group’s Negotiating Committee, noted, “As a negotiator, it’s extremely beneficial to listen to what our industry counterparts are doing to minimize involuntary furloughs and bargaining concessions. We all have different approaches to solving these universal problems, and the back-and-forth dialogue and brainstorming are very beneficial as we move forward.”

The roundtable participants examined a wide range of topics, including the economic effect of COVID-19 on the regional industry, how legislation has impacted carriers, opportunities for adding alternative value to contracts, exploring options to save jobs, and ways to provide support and career continuity for pilots. All of these topics reinforced the importance of having a strategic plan in place and keeping the lines of communication open.

Bruce York, ALPA’s chief negotiator, stressed that even in troubled times there are opportunities for advancement during negotiations. “The things that we try to do in successful times are the same things we try to do in tough times,” he explained. “We still have goals, we still have objectives, and we still have a checklist that matters to us. Many of these aren’t cost items but quality-of-life items—so even in tough times we can try to achieve them.”

Regarding saving pilot jobs and mitigation efforts, Capt. Claude Buraglia (Jazz Aviation), his pilot group’s MEC chair, talked in terms of protecting good jobs by being flexible and recognizing that collective agreements weren’t written to deal with types of events such as pandemics. “Showing flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean long-term concessions,” he explained, “but rather being open to change in a way that can also benefit members when it’s the right time. Our goal is to protect the maximum percentage of good, sustainable jobs.”

And even when pilots receive the troubling news that their airline is closing down, there are still items to negotiate, such as severance pay, insurance continuations, leave payout, grievance resolutions, pass travel, and more. “Every step of the way, ALPA has provided the ExpressJet pilots with the resources we’ve needed as we deal with the shutdown of our airline,” explained F/O Joe Mauro (ExpressJet), his pilot group’s MEC chair.

“Our industry was strong before this pandemic hit,” F/O Paul Ryder (United), ALPA’s national resource coordinator, reminded attendees. “We had a robust negotiating environment at all carriers.” While that’s changed due to the current pandemic, he assured the group, “We’re going to get back to good times. But we have to survive and help our pilots survive the challenges ahead—as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible.”

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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